Split Partisan SB 213 Vote Shifts Debate from Real Reform to Raising Taxes

In case you haven’t been following me on Twitter (which raises the question: Why not?), you may not have noticed that the big education bill of the 2013 Colorado legislative session has made its way through the State Senate. As a new Ed News Colorado story by Todd Engdahl highlights, Senate Bill 213 has advanced as a purely partisan piece of legislation:

The Senate approved Senate Bill 13-213 on a 20-15 preliminary vote, which is expected to be the same party-line total when a final vote is taken later.

That final vote occurred earlier today by the same 20-15 margin. And thus the 174-page legislation motors on over to the House now. Still not really much choice or backpack funding at all. Changing from a single count date to average daily membership is great, but not worth a billion smackeroos. As the Education Reform Bulletin proclaims about SB 213, raising taxes trumps reform.

Despite my April Fool’s head fake, I still don’t believe in the “magical money tree” — or the Tooth Fairy, for that matter. Whether or not Colorado voters will oblige some sort of request for additional tax dollars remains to be seen, but legislators who had a hard time voting for SB 213 provided a great reason to oppose moving the process forward:

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulpher [sic] Springs, told the Post it was premature to vote on the bill without first knowing the details of the statewide tax increase that would be used to fund it.

“How can we be asked to vote on this bill without knowing what specific tax measure will be used to support this bill?” Baumgardner asked.

As the same article explains, the legislation’s complexities and its rapidly evolving state have created enough confusion that the Steamboat Springs school board is weighing whether to put a local mill levy override on the ballot, too. That could leave voters in the mountain community even more confused. They’d be facing a statewide tax proposal of which they would be uncertain how much might benefit their own schools while wondering how it might interact with an increase to their own property tax bill.

Many voters might be inclined to support one tax hike but not the other. How would that impact the statewide proposal we’re still in the dark about? If you’re like me, it’s enough to make your head spin around a few times. Whatever answers we come to, it’s clear the discussion now has shifted more to taxes and away from education reform.